You know, it’s just struck me how so many of us are so busy ‘competing’ for attention / kudos / success / popularity etc, that it’s making it really hard for us to appreciate what other people are actually trying to do to build the world. (As always, I’m talking about myself…)

Someone sent me a newsletter for her new website: it was beautifully done, and very colourful and professional. My first thought was: ‘Wow! This looks so impressive!’

My second thought was: ‘Man, I could never do something this good…’

My third thought was: ‘What the heck am I saying??!?!?’

Because instead of appreciating the time and effort that had gone into my correspondant’s beautiful site, my yetzer instead had me wasting time and effort on tearing myself down.

I had to work for a good half an hour to stop feeling like a complete loser again, and to focus on what G-d (and Rav Arush…) want me to focus on, namely, gratitude.

Whenever I get sucked into ‘competing’, I can’t be grateful for the beautiful light others are shining into the world.

The ‘plus’ that G-d sends my way turns into a ‘minus’, and instead of feeling happy that there are such amazing things going on around me, I start fretting that someone else’s light is somehow detracting from my own.

But it’s baloney!!

Once I worked all that out, I decided I needed to call the person in question, and tell her how great her site looked. I needed to appreciate her time and effort, and get my own insecurities out the way. So I did.

I’m currently re-learning, for the millionth time, that it’s not a competition. There is enough success / attention / kudos / appreciation / light available for everyone, and instead of worrying that I’m not ‘good enough’, I just need to appreciate all the good out there, and to trust that G-d will help me to shine my own light in whatever way it needs to happen, whenever it needs to happen.

The other day, I walked past a billboard in Meah Shearim for one of the local healthcare providers here in Israel, that had a big picture of a smiley charedi doctor doing two big thumbs up. The slogan underneath read something like: “A billion children’s visits to the doctor!!”

Apparently, the healthcare provider felt that this was cause for some celebration, but I walked away scratching my head.

Israel is not a big country – it’s got about 6 million residents. The number of children is clearly less than that. The number of children going to this particular health care provider (probably around 50%) is even less than that.

Now, I’m not a maths whiz, but that sounds like an awful lot of sick children, too me. I mean, by the time you’re taking them off to the doctor it’s usually already up to a level of ‘serious’.

What’s going on here?

Why are there so many sick children walking around?

(Of course, I have my own ideas, but what do you think?)

On a separate, but related note, I was telling someone about my new book, which G-d willing is approaching completion, which talks tachlis about how to keep ourselves mentally and physically healthy by getting G-d involved in our health.

I’m planning to do two versions – one for the ‘frum’ Jewish world, and one for the non-Jewish world.

She told me very candidly: “You’ve got an uphill struggle. Most people in the Jewish frum world will just tell you ‘G-d made Prozac, and He wants us to use it’, and that’s the end of the conversation.”

I was a little bit shocked.

Are things really that bad? I mean, yes, G-d made Prozac, but He also made heroin, cocaine, Rocket Propelled Grenades, Arab terrorists, internet porn and the IRS.

If someone came up and told me ‘G-d made heroin, and He wants me to use it to feel happy’ – that argument really wouldn’t fly with me.

G-d made EVERYTHING, in the world, absolutely everything. Our job down here is to choose between ‘good’ and ‘bad’, and between ‘what G-d wants’ and ‘what G-d doesn’t want’.

Sometimes, I can’t believe the moral madness I’m trying to deal with. If I was dealing with a bunch of atheists who were big believers in the idea that ‘bodies are all there is’, and they were telling me this stuff, that would be one thing. But when you’re dealing with the people who are meant to be the ‘light unto the nations’? It’s kinda depressing.

When G-d is out of the picture, who’s to say using heroin is wrong? I mean, if you could get it on prescription, what’s the problem? It’s probably cheaper to produce and has less side affects than most of the other things being produced by Glaxo…

Sigh.

One step at a time. One day at a time.

And who knows? Maybe one day, someone in Meah Shearim will still buy my book.

Life is such a fragile thing, isn’t it? We don’t like to think of it as being so (especially if we’re parents), because it would make it too hard to function, in some way, if we really ‘got’ how temporary everything is.

But when we don’t grasp the ephemeral nature of life, we can so easily end up missing the whole point of being alive.

The same day I got the terrible news of the car crash involving the Rav’s son and family, my daughter’s pet bird died. (I’m not for one moment suggesting there’s a parity, G-d forbid.)

But my daughter loved her pet, as children do, and was terribly distraught for two days’ afterwards. She also has a hamster, and now that the bird had gone, she was worrying that something ‘bad’ was going to happen to her other pet.

When she found out about the car crash, that seemed to tip her over into some massive ‘where is G-d’ moments, and she was really angry that G-d could let so many apparently horrible things happen in the world.

‘Why was G-d killing innocent pets, and even more innocent people?’ she wanted to know. ‘How can G-d be good, if He’s doing things like that?’

These are not simple questions.

They go to the heart of what it means to really live our emuna. They underpin a whole worldview, and whole perception of life down here as just being ‘prep time’ for the place where it’s really happening.

If it was just the bird, I probably would have managed it better. Bird and crash together meant that G-d was giving me a big exam in emuna, too. Because kids know when you’re sincere, or when you’re just parroting ‘religious’ stuff at them because it’s the right thing to do, and not because you really believe it yourself.

We ended up having a long discussion about it (relatively – she is still 11), and I can’t say that I totally convinced her, at least, not initially, that there was a big plan and that everything was exactly how it should be.

As I was talking to her, I could see I still needed some convincing myself. I mean, Rav Arush is my rabbi, and as I’ve posted here a few times already, he is a very holy, kind, humble, sincere person. And so are his kids.

On some level, I hate what’s just happened.

On some other level, I know that what Rav Arush himself wants from me is to NOT question G-d’s ways, and to accept 100% that G-d is only good.

I went to a ladies’ prayer thing at the yeshiva yesterday, for the refuah of R’ Shimon and his family, and that message came across loud and clear:

We do not question Hashem’s ways!

Rav Arush and his family are being tested so hard because he’s standing in the breach for Am Yisrael. We moan about our parnassa, or about our housing, or about our pet bird dying – instead of trying to be grateful for all the blessings G-d is continually doing for us, and all that complaining creates a massive spiritual debit against Am Yisrael.

That our tzaddikim pay off with their mesirut nefesh and suffering.

But I don’t want Rav Arush to suffer any more on my account!

The other thing that came across loud and clear from my prayer thingy is that GRATITUDE is the main area that really needs the work.

The more I, you, everyone, says ‘thank you’ to G-d, the easier it’s going to be for all of us.

I’ve struggled to really be grateful, especially recently. But I decided I owe it to Rav Arush – and the other tzadikim who are holding the fort for Am Yisrael – to really give it my best shot, now.

I want to hear good news from the hospital. I want to enjoy my own temporary life as much as I can, while I’ve still got it. I want geula to come fast, the sweet way. And I want to really show my children that G-d IS good, even when their pet bird dies unexpectedly. And I think working on my gratitude, and my emuna, is the only way I’m going to be able to do it.

As you already know if you’ve come to this blog from breslev.co.il, my kids now go to school in the Old City of Jerusalem. Yes, that Old City, with people (apparently) getting stabbed with screwdrivers, knives, bits of rusty fencing – whatever the Arabs have to hand, basically.

Usually, someone tells me a particularly ‘juicy’ stabbing story five minutes after my kids were just in the same location, or are planning to go there tomorrow, to visit some friend who lives in the Muslim Quarter, or Ir David (right next to Silwan Village) or Maalei Zeitim – that has it’s own machine-gun outpost.

Cool!

If you don’t happen to be their mother.

If you’re their mother, what else can you do besides making sure you say Tikkun Haklali pretty much every single day, and doing a ‘mini’ Pidyon Hanefesh for them every time they step out the door.

Because apart from one kid who lives in Har Homa, and another from Givat Mordechai, pretty much every single one of their classmates comes to school under armed guard – what’s called ‘levuyi’, in Hebrew.

Sometimes, when G-d gives me a rare moment to catch my breath, I think about the enormous bizarreness of so much of my life right now, and it almost makes me laugh: I mean, Arabs scare the pants off me! Almost as much as having to wear a tichel…

So the fact that my kids go to school through the Arab shuk, and that all their social engagements involve two big ex-soldier guys with guns is still something I often can’t believe.

It’s a constant, daily reminder that G-d is running the world, not me.

I have to work, constantly, to give control of so much of my life back to G-d at the moment, and to do my best to be happy about my present circumstances.

But that’s the true definition of emuna: being happy with your lot.

It’s definitely easier when your kids are going to some quiet, village prep school with excellent academic standards, you own your own house, your husband has a steady job, and you have maybe half a clue of what you think you’re doing and what it’s all about.

That said, I’m actually starting to enjoy the craziness, in a funny way. The other week, I went to Kever Dovid to do a bit of crochet and personal prayer for an hour. I felt so filled-up by that visit.

The Old City is such a holy, crazy place to be intimately involved with. On the one hand, I’m thrilled my kids are there in school, and on the other hand, I sometimes wish they were anywhere else in the country.

But then, my daughter told me an Arab stabbed some people on a bus in ‘safe’ Tel Aviv this morning (she has all the latest ‘Arab stabbing’ news, often even before Ynet), and I realised that G-d really is in charge.

We need to do what we need to do, and trust in G-d’s goodness, and then let go. We’re really not in control.

Of all the lessons I’ve learnt from my children’s school, that’s probably the most important.

I love the simplicity of energy medicine. I know I’m not doing the world’s best job of explaining it (yet…) on this blog, but hopefully that will change soon, especially when I get all my diagrams of acupressure points sorted out.

In the meantime, I just wanted to tell you a bit about pulse points.

Acupuncturists usually train for decades, to be able to tell if one of the 12 meridian pulse points is too weak, or too strong, but if you use energy (or muscle) testing, you can literally pick up the basics in an hour.

The 12 pulse points are located on the thumb side of each hand, six on right wrist, and six on the left wrist.

If you press lightly with three fingers, you get the pulses for the external, or ‘yang’ meridians. If you press deeply with the same three fingers, you get the pulses for the internal, or ‘yin’ meridians.

Today, I was feeling really, really low, and I had no idea why. I mean, OKAYYY, times are currently tough in the Levy household. But sadly, it’s been that way for years. If I let that get me down I don’t think I would’ve smiled once the last 12 years…

So something else was going on.

(The last time I felt like this, btw, was a few weeks before the last Gazan war.)

Last time, I literally felt I was going to have a heart-attack for weeks, G-d forbid, for no obvious reason. This time round, thanks to the pulses, I could at least check what meridians were out, and try to figure out how to unblock whatever needed unblocking, or strengthen whatever needed strengthening, before my toes went numb.

I checked, and I got the following information:

Kidney, small intestine, gallbladder and heart were all out.

I vigorously rubbed the associated neurolymphatic points for each meridian, to get the energy going again, and now they all tested strong, except heart.

Ahhh, the heart.

Heart energy gets weakened by heartache and heartbreak. I’d love to tell you that I have no problems in that area, but I’d really be lying. I’ve been trying to deal with a broken heart, for various reasons, for about three years now.

Every time I think I’ve turned the corner with it, I smack straight into a big wall.

But G-d is showing me again, that I have to keep trying to heal my heartbreak, and keep looking for ways to put love out into the world, however difficult that’s been for me recently.

The only thing that’s more spiritually and physically damaging to a person than a broken heart is a heart of stone.

So even though it still feels pretty risky to hope and to love and to try again in any genuine way, that’s really the only way forward. I have to trust G-d that any heartache He throws at me is coming to heal and not to hurt, and to stop worrying so much about ‘what will be’.

That’s quite a tall order.

But I prefer it a million times over to having my toes go numb again.

So there I was, coming towards the end of completing the manuscript for my new book, which Bezrat Hashem, will give people tons of powerful tools for figuring out what’s going on with them, spiritually, emotionally and physically.

I just passed the 120,000 word mark, and it really is full of good, even revolutionary, stuff.

After months of gloom and pessimism, I was beginning to feel positive and confident again – and my yetzer hates that. So it sent me a week of disturbing bad dreams to soften me up a bit, and then it hit me with one of the most horrible days I’ve had for a long time.

Externally, nothing was really going. Internally, I started to feel filled up with despair and futility.

“No-one’s going to read your book…you’re just wasting your time…why even bother finishing it?…just go and do the washing up, already, and forget about your aspirations to build the world…”

And so on and so forth.

This carried on for a few hours, until I literally started to feel there was no point to life generally, and my life, specifically.

Has that ever happened to you? Do you get what I’m talking about?

Lucky for me, I was in the middle of listening to a class by Rav Ofer Erez in the car, and I was too despairing to even be bothered to turn it off. So I sat there, while Rav Erez started talking about ‘Klipat Amalek’, and how it’s big thing was to get a person so despairing that they give up on themselves, and stop believing that G-d is interested in them, or wants to help them, or that they can change.

Despite myself, I started listening.

Then, Rav Erez explained how he’d been talking with a big shrink in Israel, who’d been telling him that when a person gives up on themselves – when they get despairing, or yeoush, then they can’t be helped.

Their despair is what’s blocking their recovery, and the big turnaround in their life and fortunes.

I started to feel better.

I came home, started work on the book again, and I saw I was up to the part where I brought the idea from Rav Arush about how you can tell if the voice in your head is ‘good’ or ‘bad’, which is absolutely brilliant in its simplicity.

In a nutshell, good things, good thoughts, come from the side of ‘good’; and bad ideas and bad thoughts come from the side of ‘bad’.

All those bad ideas about how I was wasting my time, how my book was rubbish, how it was just going to sink without a trace etc etc – that was just my evil inclination!

Again, I know this sounds like a no-brainer, but when you’re in the middle of these tests, the biggest problem is that the voice of bad really sounds so convincing and ‘honest’.

Once I had clarity again, that the voice in my head wasn’t ‘realistic’, it was just plain evil and ‘Klipat Amalek’, I started to fight back. The next day, I finished two big, long chapters, and I set myself the goal of getting the whole draft completely done by February 1, G-d willing.

Rebbe Nachman taught us ‘there is no despair in the world’. He didn’t mean that we don’t feel despair, because we often do, especially in this difficult generation. What he meant, is that even if we’ve despaired of ourselves, and our abilities to improve or change, we should never despair of G-d’s love, and help.

G-d continues to believe in us, even when we’ve given up. He sends us CDs with just the right words we need to hear; holy rabbis to guide our path; great, simple, powerful advice to help us see that He didn’t give up on us.

His hand is always open, to lift us out of the mud and despair we’ve fallen into. So look for His hand in your own life, and grab it!

For months’ now, I’ve been getting some version of the same message in my daily hitbodedut sessions: “Hang on. You’re nearly there. It’s all going to turnaround soon, and be better than it’s ever been.”

I’ve been struggling with so many issues on so many fronts, that I’m really, really desperate to believe that it’s all going to improve soon.

But then I hit a day like today, and it’s like all my spiritual reserves have disappeared.

I’ve been having disturbing dreams the last few days, and they all have the same sort of theme: I’m homeless, I’m lost; me and my life are full of ‘holes’ that can’t seem to be filled, I’m a stranger, an outsider, etc etc.

I wake up after these dreams completely drained, and then I go through the day with huge unexplained anxiety.

Dear reader, I do a four hour or six hour hitbodedut sessions nearly every week, and that’s really what’s been keeping me going. I know I’m struggling at the moment, despite all my praying and other stuff, because objectively, I have huge challenges going on in my life that I appear to be powerless to change or fix.

Whatever practical effort, or histadlut, me and my husband has tried the last two years has failed spectacularly.

There is nothing else to do except pray, and wait for G-d to turn things around. Nervous breakdowns notwithstanding, I thought I was doing OK with having no income, no stability, no community, and some other excrutiating tests of emuna that I can’t even begin to talk about.

But my dreams are showing me otherwise.

Last night’s was a classic: an old ‘successful’ friend was driving me, in their car, to stay with some other hugely successful people, in their enormous flat, because I was homeless and penniless.

The whole drive, I kept seeing things with holes in them – massive holes in the ground, holes in the furniture, holes in the buildings.

It sounds fairly tame as nightmares go, but I woke up feeling so despairing today, that I had to do an hour of hitbodedut just to get out of bed.

I feel like I’ve spent the best part of a decade waiting for G-d to rescue me from the darkness, but recently, at least in my life, it’s just intensified.

What’s a person to do, when they’ve been to Uman 7 times, done tons of hitbodedut, got blessings and advice from holy people, tried to make teshuva on everything they can think of, and still they’re stuck, spiritually?

Answers on a postcard, please.

And in the meantime, I’ll continue to play the waiting game.

You know that dictum that ‘fools rush in where angels fear to tread’?

Well, I feel that my credentials as an official ‘fool’ must have finally been stamped, as the last week, I’ve been sticking my neck out all over the place.

One day, I decided to tear down a pornographic poster for some ‘club’ event that was posted up near Jerusalem’s crack alley. Usually, I would just make a lot of disapproving, tutting noises about how disgusting it was, that my husband and kids (and others…) had to walk past such offensive smut.

This time, instead of tutting I took action: I ripped the poster off the wall proudly, and I wasn’t scared to defend my actions should some crazed club promoter come storming out from under his rock to angrily berate me for removing his pornography from Jerusalem’s holy walls.

No-one said anything – and I felt really good that for once, I didn’t just put my head down and ‘accept’ the nastiness swirling all around without complaint.

I had the clarity, however brief it may turn out to be, that people who stick pornographic posters up on walls are acting in a mentally-ill, anti-social way, and that behavior needs to be challenged, not excused.

L’havdil, the next day I was walking into Geula via Meah Shearim and the frum yobbos had decided to tip over a bunch of bins and set the contents on fire. (Given that the garbage disposal people are currently on strike, it’s kind of a mixed blessing.)

Usually, I would just walk past and tut. But this time, I was seriously considering going over and picking the bins up, or complaining – something! – to register the fact that this is mentally-ill, anti-social, unacceptable behavior, whatever the excuse for it. My daughter stopped me from doing it (she’s seen what can happen when I get all fired up, and I’m not sure who she was more scared for, me or the yobbos), and after we spent a couple of minutes discussing it, I backed down.

The next day, one of my neighbours knocked on my door to ask me to start cleaning the outside stairs by my house.

Some of the building’s girls were doing it up until now, but they quit and now he wanted everyone to ‘do their part’. It’s not an unreasonable request, but the truth is that for the last few weeks, I’ve been struggling to stay on top my basic cleaning chores inside my own house.

Between trying to get the book out, trying to ‘be there’ for my kids in whatever way God decides I need to be, and trying to get out more so that I’m not stuck in ‘anti-social’ hermit mode, I don’t have a lot of spare time at the moment. And if I do, I want to spend it cooking a nice supper for my family, or finally putting on a wool wash, or having a good conversation with my husband, instead of schlepping up and down the stairs outside to keep my neighbor happy.

I don’t know if this is right or wrong. What I can tell you, is that just before he told me I should clean the stairs every week, I was thinking I’d like to go and give it a sweep. But now I’ve been ‘commanded’ to do it by someone else, I can’t!

It’ll have to wait another three weeks now, or something, for it to get really bad and for my own free choice to kick in again, and decide I should do a bit of cleaning.

The last few weeks have been so weird, and changeable, and pressured, and strange, I’ve been having troubles pinning it all down, or knowing what I think about anything. You might have noticed that in my writing, too, which has been quite ‘light’ while I’m figuring out what God really wants from me.

The last couple of days, some big shifts have happened, and BH, I’ll share more with you about it all this week, because I think it may help you too, if you’ve been going through anything remotely similar.

In the meantime, caveat emptor: I may be writing and acting from the place of a fool, and not the place of an angel at the moment. But if that’s what God really wants, so be it.

One of the reasons I wanted to start this blog was to give people encouragement that G-d actually really loves us, even when He’s sending us some very hard tests. I don’t write those words lightly: the last year, I’ve had 1 forced house sale (we ran out of cash); 2 house moves (one after 3 months, as our landlord was a jerk); 1 failed business; 1 big schools crisis (because my girls refused to wear socks); 3 months of utter misery and loneliness, and about a zillion nervous breakdowns where I thought I was going bonkers.

The hardest thing to take, throughout this time, was the feeling that G-d was punishing me for something, and I didn’t even know what. For a good few months, as our internal and external circumstances kept clunking from bad-to-worse-to-terrible-to-the-worst-its-ever-been-and-there’s-still-more-to-come, I was torturing myself thinking that G-d was simply punishing me. I couldn’t understand what was happening to me, or why.

Dear reader, me and my husband do hitbodedut every day for an hour (thank G-d, otherwise I really would be stuffed.) At that time, we’d just moved to Jerusalem to open a new business that was ‘spreading the word’ about emuna to tourists in the Old City (I know, I know, I’m cringing writing that.) My husband was learning in Chut Shel Chesed full time, and we were both doing our best to ‘improve’ and give G-d what we thought he wanted (ie, chronically depressed wannabe chareidim).

When everything started falling apart, including my emuna, I started doing one six hour prayer session after another, apparently to no avail.

After this had been carrying on for a few months, I started turning to my regular mentors for answers – and they didn’t have any for me. Or if they did, it was along the lines of: “G-d is punishing you because your husband didn’t shave his hair off and grow his beard longer, when he decided to have payot.”

Once I heard that particular explanation for my troubles, something very deep inside me cracked. Because I knew, with every fibre of my soul, that G-d could see how sincere I was, and how much I was trying to be good. To even suggest that G-d would ‘punish’ me – or anyone else, for that matter – over something so trivial and external as my husband not shaving his head clearly showed me that the person who was telling me that had no idea how much G-d really loves His creations.

Thank G-d, Rav Arush and his blessings kept me and my husband going, spiritually, until the real answer came a couple of months’ later, in Uman. In Uman, G-d finally showed me what all the craziness had really been about: I had a very big ‘gap’ in my soul that needed plugging if I was ever really going to be happy, and THAT’s what had been going on.

Once I got that, I felt that G-d loved me so much, and that He really had pulled off a very difficult spiritual surgery in the kindest, gentlest way possible. OK, it hadn’t felt like that at the time, but with hindsight I really got that He had no choice.

So now I’m on a mission to tell you, dear reader, and anyone else who’ll listen, that G-d really does love us. Sometimes, we have to go through excrutiating circumstances for spiritual reasons that are hidden from us, and it can feel like G-d is mamash trying to kill us with suffering and misery.

This generation has so much left to fix in our souls, that it can sometimes feel like ‘the operation was a success, but the patient died.’ That’s where simple emuna comes in. That’s where honest, heart-felt prayer comes in. That’s where blessings from tzadikim like Rav Arush and visits to tzadikim like Rebbe Nachman come in.

I don’t know where I’d be without all these things.

It got me through the ‘surgery’ until I reached the recovery period.

I know we’re all going through it at the moment (and if we’re not, we’re lying). But it’s not a punishment, it’s a soul-correction. If you can believe that, it’ll give you the strength to continue, until G-d shows you why it all had to be that way, and that He really loves you, me, us, the Jewish people, so, so much.

For the last nine and a half years, I’ve been trying my hardest to be an ISRAELI. I’ve been hampered in my quest to be an ISRAELI by a couple of major drawbacks: it took me three years before I even had a chance of understanding what my kids’ teachers were telling me at the PTA (Even now, I mostly just smile and nod…)

And secondly (and this one I’ve only just realised) – I’m actually not an Israeli.

How can I be? My formative years were spent in London and Canada, and until I was 16 we weren’t doing anything very ‘Jewish’ at home. I went to a non-Jewish school, and I obsessed over all the things my non-Jewish friends obsessed over: George Michael, clothes and Back to the Future.

It’s not very spiritual, is it? It’s not very Jewish. It’s not very ISRAELI.

And for the first twenty years of my life, that’s what I had hard-wired into to my soul: British non-Jewish culture, with all its sarcastic humour, beer and obsession with pies.

I’d taken a lot of the more obvious rough edges off in London, before I made aliya. We were keeping kosher, keeping Shabbat, learning Torah, hanging out with Jews.

So in my head, I thought I’d step off the plane at Ben Gurion, pick up Hebrew in two weeks, and then have a bunch of cool sabra friends called Ilanit and Roni to hang out with.

But that’s not exactly what happened.

We landed in a very ‘anglo’ neighbourhood, and quickly outgrew it. I wanted real Israel; I didn’t move to Israel just for my kids to feel like expat Brits. So we moved to an ISRAELI settlement across the Green Line, and I tried my darndest to fit in.

Three years’ later, my kids spoke Hebrew really nicely, and their friends were all Israeli, which I thought was so cool, until they started beating my children up on the way to school.

I don’t know how a real ISRAELI would have reacted, but I reacted by getting the heck out of there, and moving to a place that was a bit more civilised (read: socially repressed) and anglo.

For the first year, it was heaven. Then all the things that I don’t like very much about anglo culture resurfaced: the competition to be seen as a ‘success’; the clique-yness; the obsession with big houses and nice holidays.

This was in my super-duper-trying-to-be-frum-like-people-in-meah-shearim period, when I felt bad about doing anything more gashmius than buying a chicken leg for shabbos.

A whole bunch of things happened over the next three years, and to cut a long story short, we ended up in Jerusalem, very close to Meah Shearim, six short (but very long…) months ago.

Moving to Jerusalem sparked off a whole big identity crisis for me. I realised that I actually didn’t want to be chareidi; I realised that I actually didn’t want to be poor; I realised that making a good kugel was just not spiritually satisfying, however hard I tried.

And the last thing I realised, just last week, in the middle of the Shlomo Katz Chanuka concert, is that I actually don’t want to be ISRAELI any more. It’s not that any of these things are intrinsically bad, G-d forbid. They’re just not me.

This week, I paid my first visit to the Jerusalem Gap for about three years, and I picked up a new coat with fake fur on the hood. It looks so ‘anglo-in-Israel’ – and I love it.

I don’t know what all this means. What I can tell you, is that as I’m reclaiming all these parts of myself that I’ve been embarrassed or ashamed of, I’m feeling so much happier and settled and healthy.

No more beating myself up for liking beans on toast; no more disdaining myself for actually really liking that nice grey jumper in Zara; no more feeling like a worm, because I’m enjoying listening to music in English for a change (by the Maccabeats…)

I know it was all well-meaning, and spiritually-striving of me to try to be a holy Meah Shearim-type balabusta, but the big drawback was that it’s not me. I nearly killed myself trying to fit into those boxes, but G-d has been showing me time and again that I have a different way of trying to build the world, and to get closer to Him, and it entails going through Gap on the way to the Kotel.

What can I do? I know G-d wants me to serve Him happily, as me. And now that I’ve got my fake fur trim coat, I feel I’ve taken a giant step towards giving Him what He really wants from me: to be me, even with all my imperfections.